I’ve covered our top family-friendly Melbourne activities in my previous post, in this one I will share our favorite eats, where we stayed, and tips for getting about.
Starting with where we stayed, I believe that the hotel can be about 50% of the entire experience – from its location, which enhances or affects all the logistics, to the general enjoyment based on comfort and interaction with the city. So yes, hotels are extremely important to me, and the first thing I look at when I travel.
When I asked around, 9 out of 10 people who live in, or traveled regularly to, Melbourne heartily recommended the Crown Hotels (Metropole and Tower). It can be pricey, but is a very central and convenient place to stay. The other recommendation that came online for a family booking was the Stamford Plaza Melbourne. Both had great reviews on Tripadvisor.
We spent four nights in the Crown Towers (we stayed in and highly recommend the Suite, we booked on http://www.hotels.com and got the Suite for about AUD620 per night in peak season, the same price as my friend paid for a Deluxe room on another website for the same trip, the suite was twice the size and twice as nice!).
We also stayed three nights in Stamford Plaza, as we liked the location in Little Collins Street, literally a stone’s throw from all the hip eateries and main shopping belt. We recommend Crown Towers but found the Stamford Plaza unimpressive – rooms were dark and a little old, our room sliding door actually came off its hinge and there were insufficient windows so the place was dark. The rooms were also really small, too small to fit a cot or spare bed comfortably. We were more than happy to move over to Crown Towers after three days.
He settles in like a boss. That view though!
Don’t forget to bring your swimmers! There’s this gorgeous huge indoor heated pool, kept at about 30 degrees and with beautiful skylights so the place is filled with natural light but the water stays warm all year round. Finally, enjoying a soak in the bath tub- his favorite pastime in hotels!
If you were looking for an alternative location though, the hotel we would recommend would be the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, along Collins Street. It had an unbeatable location right on the main shopping and dining stretch, and a nice buzzy cafe in front.
The first thing we did after we checked in was to make a visit to the Eureka Skydeck on Level 88. It’s the highest vantage point open to the public, and offers awe-inspiring 360 degree bird’s eye views of the city.
The Eureka Skydeck is only steps away from the bustling and buzzy South Bank, and also where the Crown casinos are located. The best way to experience this beautiful waterfront part of the city is on foot (and stroller).
Hello seagull… He got sleepy and grumpy halfway through (likely the 3 hour time difference which had him sleepy by 6pm) , thanks goodness we brought the stroller!
Moving on to our Top 5 dining experiences (with toddler in tow):
1) Hardware Societe
So there’s this iconic little French breakfast-brunch place nestled in the middle of town on 120 Hardware Street, walking distance from Little Collins Street where we were staying. You can’t make reservations, I gather they’re pretty full most of the time. They have a limited number high chairs, we scored only one – but as many places in Melbourne don’t have high chairs at all, this wasn’t unexpected.
With a name like “Hardware Societe” I had expected a modern, industrial setup, a little of that factory-chic type eatery – but nope, it’s kind of a low-key, laid back rustic cafe with butterfly wallpaper and little marble tables. It’s not a big place at all, about 40 seats indoors and another 20 outdoors.
The coffee here is freshly made, and so served one latte/ cappuccino at a time. Not posh, but served fresh and piping hot. Good stuff! We ordered an iced chocolate for Bubu thinking we would get like, a milo with ice cubes in it… And this is what arrived! OMG. Chocolate milk on a bed of fudge sauce laden with vanilla ice cream! Clearly not what I (as the parent of a two year old) envisioned for breakfast when I asked for an iced chocolate! Notwithstanding my iced chocolate expectations, he loved it of course! #supersugarhigh
Breakfast here was really really good! Traditional fare, nothing exceptionally new or creative, but just really fresh, hearty and well-done. We had the Baked Eggs and Chorizo, Lobster Eggs Benedict and Contintental Breakfast – none of the orders disappointed. Easy to see why this place is packed out. Worth the little wait!
2) Pure South Dining
We visited this restaurant located on Southgate at the South Bank waterfront (well there’s no real view of the water, maybe I mean on the main walkway) while staying in Crown Towers. It came highly recommended by a local, as his absolute favorite restaurant in the whole city, so we gave it a try.
Cuisine is best described as Modern Australian with a focus on fresh Australian and Tasmanian produce. I’m not much of a food reviewer so I’ll let the photos do most of the talking …Scallops
All in all, we really enjoyed dining at Pure South. They don’t have high chairs like many other Melbourne dining establishments, but food and service were faultless, and the other diners were welcoming of our occasionally fussy toddler, and didn’t glare at us once, instead giving him occasional nods and smiles.
3) Cumulus Inc
Located on Flinders Lane, this is another highly-recommended restaurant in Melbourne that doesn’t take reservations. We tried our luck on a Sunday evening, arriving at 6:30pm and found the place fairly empty. The restaurant has a great vibe with high ceilings and a bustling open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work.
Again, they didn’t have high chairs but they were able to give us seating in the corner banquette area so the kids could sit on the sofa, and that worked out just fine. The restaurant did get more crowded later in the evening, but not to the point where there was a long wait or line for anyone.
We ordered sharing plates – Parma ham, Ox tongue, Sweet & Sour cauliflower and Tuna Tartare. All really good, we had seconds of the cauliflower, and the Tuna Tartare atop pea mash and goat curd which came highly recommended was indeed very tasty!
Beef for the main course, and I can’t remember what dessert we had, but we demolished everything! Heartily enjoyed and would recommend Cumulus Inc.
4) Cutler & Co
Upscale restaurant in an old metalworks factory with an open kitchen, posh decor and a pricey menu, but thoroughly enjoyable.
Located in the arty and bohemian Fitzroy area, described as a “foodie Mecca” online, top 10 in Australia (#10 in Melbourne on Tripadvisor) – and one of my favorite experiences of the trip.
Again, no high chairs but as you can see, the little ones settle quite comfortably into the banquettes (and when wedged between two adults, are quite well contained-phew!) We ordered lots of plates to share – everything was really fresh, and exquisitely presented. My favorites were the pastrami on toast and the duck leg – Mmmmmmm!
5) Hammer & Tong 412
We can’t wrap up a Melbourne food journal without at least one more brunch/ brekkie place, which is what seems to be a signature of the Melbs dining scene.
Hammer & Tong is an unpretentious little cafe (I would guess it seats about 50 in total) with an amazingly innovative menu and options that will have you wishing you could order for 5-6 people, as there are so many tempting dishes that you will want to try!
We waited 10 minutes for a table (decent), and 45 minutes for the food (not okay! The waitstaff apologized to us twice for the exceptionally long wait – but with a baby and a hungry toddler, it was just too long a wait for food). So I would suggest either not going on a Saturday morning, or not going with hungry kids – we ended up feeding Bubu gummy bears to keep his hunger at bay and he ate about 26 then wasn’t hungry any more!)
The Soft Shell Crab burger and Ox Cheek Eggs Benedict are two of the signature dishes here. Both very very good.
The ramen is another signature dish.
Signing off with another gratuitous Jakey photo… And our entire itinerary below which may come in handy when planning!
- Arrive and check in
- Chill out – Eureka Sky Deck
- 930am arrive collingwood farm
- 10am Collingwood Farm – Cow Milking, The Farm Cafe is supposed to be good
- 12pm Lunch at Abbotsford Convent
- 2pm Diamond Valley Railway (11-5pm) 570 Main Road, Elkham Victoria – 30 min from Melbourne only open Sunday
- Montsalvat Artists Colony (close 5pm)
- 630pm Cumulus Inc Dinner – 45 Flinders Lane (no bookings taken)
- 9am drive to Belgrave (1 hour)
- 10am Arrive, sort out ticketing, take photos, buy snacks and drinks
- 11.10am Puffing Billy departure to Lakeside- 1 hour train ride) 1 hour Lakeside- Lunch
- 230pm return train (1 hour return) Arrive back at Belgrave station around 330pm. Drive back to Melbourne 1 hour. Arrive back at hotel 330-4pm
- 5pm Snack / Asian tapas at Chin Chin
- 8pm Dinner – SuperNormal
- 9am Melbourne Zoo – Werribee Open Range Zoo – New toddler adventure trail program (only open Tuesday and Friday) – must call to book the safari. Book also Magic Moments with Koala (have to call) $12 per adult, 10 min up close with fave animal of your choice
- Dinner – Pure South Dining
- 9am Breakfast – Hardware Societe
- 10am Melbourne Museum (10-5pm open) – Real dinosaur bones
- 1pm Botanic Gardens Lunch – Jardin Tan (botanic gardens observatory building – child friendly) and Children’s Garden
- 7pm Dinner – The Meat & Wine Co
Yarra River Day Out
- 10am Healesville Sanctuary – Koala Bear experience with Magic Moments booking
- 12pm Lunch and wine tastings – Coombe Farm on Melba Estate
- Yarra Glen Adventure Playground
- Yarra River Chocolaterie and Ice creameries – free tastings
Brunswick street in Fitzroy- Bohemian place for street culture, art and gelato
- 12pm Lunch at Cutler & Co Explore Fitzroy neighborhood
- 3pm Visit to Myers and David Jones toy department
- 7-11pm Luna Park
- 930am Breakfast at Hammer & Tong
- 1pm Shopping and Lunch at Chapel Street
- Check out and fly home
P.S. Almost forgot to share my tip for dealing with a very long line at customs when you first arrive (we arrived along with two other flights and had an Express pass but people told us near the front of the line that they had been waiting two hours!) . You can either get an Express Pass from your airlines at disembarkation (given to business class passengers and travelers with infants, they don’t automatically offer it to you if you have little ones but the customs officer told me you could ask for one from your airline). He also gave me a tip, that they bring to the front of the line those people who have children “in distress” – so if your baby is crying or fussing, they let them join the Express line. Hmm, beats waiting in line for two hours with fussy little ones!
Last tip: This pram! The Mountain Buggy Nano folds up small enough to bring on the plane, and still rugged enough to go on farm trails and garden paths with ease. Best travel pram ever!